Silkmen’s curse strikes as Cards slip in Cheshire

Malcolm Wyatt
12:00am, Sat 3rd Sep 2016
Macclesfield Town 3 Woking 1
Vanarama National League
September 3rd 2016

Woking’s record at the Moss Rose Ground has been poor over the years, and a commanding performance from hosts Macclesfield ensured that continued on Saturday, the hosts rising to fifth in the table while the Cards remained third-bottom.

The Surrey visitors started promisingly, a move started by Jake Caprice on the right leading to a touch from combative striker Gozie Ugwu on its way back out to Dennon Lewis, his cross inches from the reach of Charlie Penny in the middle.

But the hosts were also quick out of the blocks amid swirling rain in Cheshire, Ismail Yakubu powerfully heading away a Paul Lewis cross before Keiran Murtagh ensured safety.

The first of many Ollie Norburn set-pieces was also dealt with, while two early Woking corners came to nothing, the Silkmen in the ascendency.

Chris Holroyd came close from a Mitch Hancox centre for the hosts, Michael Poke’s parry leading to a corner, while at the other end Penny fed Caprice, whose neat delivery led to keeper Craig Ross beating Ugwu to the ball.

Murtagh was in the book at roughly the same time as last weekend at York for a mid-pitch challenge on Jack Mackreth, yet the Cards were largely holding their own, carrying on the good work of Bank Holiday Monday’s win over Chester.

The Silkmen were quick on the break though, and after Ross reacted well to cut out a floating finish by Woking’s Lewis, they sprang forward, Danny Whittaker rifling home an eight-yard finish on 28 minutes from Neill Byrne’s cross, Joey Jones stretching but unable to cut out, the experienced marksman given too much time and space.

Woking were determined to bounce back, breaking on the left, Max Kretzschmar with a great ball and the keeper tipping away for a corner.

Lewis won another as the hosts held their ground, Kretzschmar trading passes with Jones before finding the side-netting, a home touch leading to a further corner, Ugwu again unable to find space in the centre.

And then it was 2-0, another sharp Macc counter-attack leading to Holroyd putting away Danny Rowe, who advanced on goal before firing home a quality left-foot finish on 37 minutes.

With shades of York again, there was no disputing the most effective midfield, Norburn proving key to the hosts, with plenty of quality around him, Woking again needing a half-time rethink.

Matters grew worse before then though, Yakubu – in only his second match back after his knee injury last term – going down in the Woking area, supporters fearing the Cards’ ACL curse had struck again.

Thankfully it was a calf injury this time though, Charlie Carter forced to take his place, and as it turned out putting in a fine shift in a reorganised line-up after the break.

Half time: Macclesfield Town 2 Woking 0

John Askey’s home side carried on where they left off from there, a Byrne cross causing flutters in the Cards’ defence, while a neat touch by the impressive Rowe nearly had Holroyd in on goal.

Good touches by Ugwu and Brian Saah kept out the next attack, while Whittaker was unlucky with a 20-yard strike, Kretzschmar’s deflection leading to a corner from which John McCombe went close with a header, cleared off the line at the back post by Caprice.

Carter, working hard, played in Penny at the near post as the visitors hit back, and the Cards halved the deficit in the 59th minute following a Kretzschmar corner, Watford loanee Lewis with a 25-yard neat finish, the 19-year-old finding the bottom corner for his second Woking goal.

The visitors still looked susceptible to the odd counter-attack, Norburn just over from the next corner, while Cards keeper Poke shepherded his defence as Holroyd’s follow-up led to another set-piece, Jones and Nathan Ralph making important touches.

At the other end Ugwu fired across the goalmouth, with no takers, the Cards looked more effective once Zak Ansah had replaced the hard-running Penny.

As Macc broke again, two men in the middle were inches from a Norburn cross, while Kretzschmar did well to cut out the midfielder’s next half-chance.

Garry Hill introduced Fabio Saraiva for the last quarter-hour, Caprice remaining a threat on the right, but the hosts held their line and Jones had to stop Rowe in his tracks the next time they countered.

Paul Lewis struck wide from the next home corner, before Jones was away on goal for Woking, playing in Ugwu, Ross equal to his promising header.

As the action swung again, Saah’s touch made a difference but almost wrong-footed Poke from Holroyd’s initial strike, Woking surviving the resultant corner.

Murtagh continued to show his presence but struggled to get a telling cross in, time ebbing away, while Ralph made an important touch as Macc again played their way into the visitors’ box.

With three added minutes left, Poke fired a free-kick into the danger area, but as the move broke down Rowe somehow stayed on his feet in a weaving, surging run, Caprice denying his target, Byrne, before Holroyd – with Poke drawn – fired home a decisive third, all Woking’s efforts undone.

But there were promising moments overall for the Cards, who will be eager to get their first away win next weekend when Hill’s strugglers travel to West Yorkshire to take on a rock-bottom Guiseley outfit with just one point to their name from eight matches.

Macclesfield Town: Craig Ross, Neill Byrne, George Pilkington, John McCombe, Jack Mackreth, Paul Lewis, Chris Holroyd, Danny Rowe, Ollie Norburn, Mitch Hancox, Danny Whittaker.

Unused subs: Ritchie Branagan, David Fitzpatrick, Jack Sampson, Dan Cowan, John Roberts.

Goals: Whitaker 28, Rowe 37, Holroyd 90.

Booking: Norburn 39.

Woking: Michael Poke, Jake Caprice, Joey Jones, Brian Saah, Ismail Yakubu (Charlie Carter 44), Nathan Ralph, Keiran Murtagh ©, Max Kretzschmar (Fabio Saraiva 74), Dennon Lewis, Charlie Penny (Zak Ansah 59), Gozie Ugwu.

Unused subs: Brandon Hall, Ben Gordon.

Goal: Lewis 59.

Booking: Keiran Murtagh 24.

Referee: Simon Barrow.

Attendance: 1,221 (50 from Woking)

My MOTM: Jake Caprice – full of running and putting in a good shift at both ends on a day when not everything went the visitors’ way, characteristic of a Cards side that never gave up, remaining in the game for 90 minutes.

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